In all of my studies, one of my greatest lessons has been learning the art of not taking things so personally.

As humans we tend to run everything through the filter of “What does this mean about me?” When someone else does something amazing, we often look at our own accomplishments and wonder if they measure up. We compare our looks and abilities to others. Are we as attractive, thin, or intelligent as the other person? When someone works tirelessly on behalf of their child, we wonder if we are doing enough for our own children or if our parents did enough for us. When someone else is angry or upset, those of us who are very sensitive often wonder if we are to blame.

People can become overly concerned about what others think of them. If you really consider this, it means that other people are not really thinking about you all that much. We are thinking about ourselves most of the time. Humans, from an evolutionary perspective, are concerned with survival. So, naturally, that means we need to spend a lot of time comparing ourselves to others to make sure we are good. If we had no one to compare ourselves to then how would we know how we were doing?

People are not thinking about you as much as you believe. They are thinking about themselves. This means that when someone disapproves of you in any way, it has little to do with you. It has everything to do with the person judging you and their own internal struggle.

I often see this struggle between parents and children. A daughter believes that her mother does not approve of her life choices and experiences great shame because she lacks her mother’s approval. In reality, the mother resents the daughter’s freedom to be at choice, not the daughter. Because the mother is unaware of the source of her own internal struggle, her resentment bleeds out as judgment towards the daughter. If the daughter knew to not take her mother’s judgment personally, then she would be unaffected by her mother’s personal shame.

A truly enlightened person would see the mother and have a great deal of empathy for her struggle. This is where we are able to find forgiveness for those who have not treated us well. It is in seeing the truth. In this case, the mother is living in shame and has no way to feel better other than to judge those who are doing the very things she wishes she had the courage to do. With a clear understanding of the mother’s state, the daughter might be able to forgive the mother which would begin the healing necessary for the mother and the daughter to find their autonomy to be ok without the validation of the other person.

It is also important to understand that we tend to dislike in others the things we cannot accept about ourselves. Those who hate it when people are late, usually have a judgment about themselves because it is such an effort to be on time. Those who cannot tolerate weakness in others may fear the weakness within themselves. Those who judge me for my eccentricities may not be able to accept their own quirky traits. This is helpful in understanding how others respond to you. If you find you are having a difficult time with someone, try to look past their behavior and wonder what you are triggering in them. Sometimes even having a happy outlook on life is triggering for people because they cannot find a way to have a happy outlook themselves. Therefore, the easiest thing to do is to judge you and your happy disposition as unrealistic, silly, ignorant, or just immature.

The challenge here is to look within when you are triggered by some other person, even if it is your child. Be curious about why you are reacting to the person or what they are doing. What about your self is similar? Why don’t you like that about yourself? When you react to someone else, pretend you are looking in a mirror. What do you see?

I am happier when I remember not to take everything so personally. I am a much lighter person not carrying the weight of other’s judgment. I need only be concerned with being the best person I can be not what other people think.